“Keep your work space clean”
This was my mom’s mantra in the kitchen. Every time I’d help her with cooking a meal, she would say this sentence at some point during our work. She has no idea how important this lesson truly is for any home cook, professional chef or really, anyone in any professional field, ever. Professional chefs refer to the order of their kitchen, or their cooking station as their “mise en place” – everything in its place. This refers to the ingredients they cook with, primarily, but it also refers to the pots and pans and knives and towels and, well, everything. This concept is so important that many cooks get fired for being messy or leaving their works place a wreck. The reasoning makes sense: if you know where things are, you will cook more efficiently and get your work done quicker and with fewer errors. There will also be a higher standard for what you put on the plate as the place it came from was clean and professional. Sure, we all make messes while we cook, but as my mom would tell me, we should clean as we go. Not only does it leave less for you to do after dinner, but it helps you feel more in control. And when you have a toddler climbing up your pants as you stir a pot on the stove, it’s good to feel like you have some control over the situation.
I’ve been rocking the stay at home mom thing for a few months, now. My photography business has happily slowed down since December while I’ve launched this blog and thoroughly enjoyed my time at home, managing the house, planting a garden, cooking a LOT and getting to experience the wonder that is Olive. I will get back to doing weddings more frequently, but I’m honestly in no rush. Wedding photography is a very demanding job, one that I love, but I believe things come and go in seasons and right now, this is my season of being less busy. Even though I have something to do nearly every minute of the day, I feel on top of things. I’m going at my own pace. I used to not love staying at home, but I think that’s because I was bad at it. I didn’t find joy in the mundane, the every day tasks. But I’m beginning to.
Not every day feels this way. Sometimes it’s all I can do to keep a happy face while I fold microscopic socks while keeping Olive engaged so she won’t put all of Cash’s food, piece by piece, into his water bowl. But for the most part, I’ve embraced the beauty of the mundane. The happy calm from a home in order. It’s not mundane, anymore. It’s sacred. It’s sacred because God is in all things and is constantly working through all things. Even the laundry. In your life, if you constantly say “what’s next?” or “I’m “just” a mom, but later, when the kids are in school, I’ll try to figure out what I’m really meant to do”, you’re selling yourself short. Newsflash: You’re meant to do exactly what you’re doing right now. Whatever it is. And you should find ways to do it with joy. Even if it’s a job you hate or a situation you find beneath you. I read a quote the other day that said, “How you spend your days is how you spend your life.” And although that sounds so cliche, it’s so right. Do you want to spend your days, your life, waiting for something better to come along? I’m not saying we shouldn’t work toward new goals, but maybe we should all start doing a better job at being thankful and making the most of our “right now”, with whatever we’ve been given, in any situation we find ourselves.
A way that I chose to have joy in my seemingly-mundane current station in life was to revamp the place I spend a lot of time: the utility area. So utterly boring, right? I agree. And it’s usually the most cluttered, messy, thrown-down room in the house. In our house, that area has our pantry, our washer and drier, a craft area, a place to iron, a storage area, and Cash’s food and stuff. That’s a lot of crap to cram into two, tiny, hallway-sized rooms. And that’s a lot of time spent in a place that is ugly and thrown-down and messy. Here’s a before pic – the view coming through the garage door:
What if THIS greeted you every time you came home? Would you feel like working? All those things hanging on a curtain rod are aprons. Yeah, I have plenty. I gave a lot away and kept the ones people made for me. De-clutter! I’m the antithesis of a hoarder. If it doesn’t get used in a year, it gets given away or thrown out.
And here is the new view coming into the house:
Much, much better. As you can see, the craft area is still junky, but it’s SO hard to keep it not-junky if you actually craft. And I do. I’m currently making World’s Ugliest Lampshade.
Below, you can see how the pantry has order, however imperfect. But I know where everything is, and that’s what matters. I put a cute light switch cover on the wall, then put two hooks in the openings for our keys. Right below is a hook for my purse. Which my purse currently isn’t on – it’s in the car where it shouldn’t be. But you get the idea.
Then, I ordered a super cute ironing board cover and hung my iron on the wall as domestic-style art. This really has become a peaceful area to iron, my most hated domestic duty.
Then, I got all Pinteresty and made a laundry-folding area. My mom used to yell, “Come get your stacks!” (of clothes) and now, I can yell, “Come get your basket!” and hopefully have the same results. I made four shelves because I’m pretty sure we’re not done having children. But for now, Olive gets both because that girl has more tiny outfits than one would ever need in life. Good thing they cycle out of clothes every 3 months!
From the craft area looking into the laundry/pantry area – I’m proud of my lampshade rigged light. Just hung it against the ceiling on little screw hooks. Magnets on the side of the drier for Olive to play with. They usually end up in Cash’s water bowl, too.
This looks messy, but that’s because they’re currently in use. Three planter boxes – one for items that need repair, one for “projects” and one for items that need ironing. Plus, a cute pegboard painted with the same paint for all the tools. I love that I don’t have to go hunting in the garage for these things, anymore.
My most Martha-moment – putting stuff in these jars. I love the OCD appeal and I love how all the colors show through. You can see here: beans, rice, pasta, feuilletine (it’s a candy additive thing you’ll make if you own Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook long enough), cocoa and cake flour.
I also hang the super heavy pots here – we use these about once a week, so they don’t need to be in the kitchen with the daily use stuff, taking up space. Those awesome teal Ball jars are at Target, currently! Go get some! The drawers below are for spices that won’t fit on my magnetic spice rack (or that I’ve stopped caring enough to buy spice cans for), extraneous and random flours, weird baking items like straight up glucose (I’m not scared) and baking additions like chocolate bars, cocoas, nuts and baking chips. Then, a tupperware full of dried chilies that we never use but it makes us feel prepared, and two boxes (the pink ones) of cake and cookie decorating things. All items that clutter up kitchen drawers! This area is my favorite part of the redo. Obviously 🙂
Hope you enjoyed the tour! And I hope that if there’s a room in your house that you use all the time, but simultaneously makes you feel depressed by being in it, that you would at least reorganize! I really didn’t spend much on all this – I had all the storage units and I just bought the paint and the laundry shelves, which cost about $25 total. Just rearranging things and painting the walls can make a world of difference!
And remember: whatever you’re doing in life right now is what you’re supposed to be doing. So find the joy in whatever small ways you can! You matter and what you do matters, even if it’s not flashy or expensive or even if you don’t get acclaim for doing it. I wish I’d learned that years ago…